AUGUSTA — A proposal by Senate Majority Leader Garrett Mason would decrease the information voters have before Election Day about political contributions made to Maine candidates.

Mason, a Lisbon Falls Republican, proposed eliminating a requirement that candidates in the final weeks of a race report contributions of more than $1,000 within 24 hours because it “creates an unnecessary amount of paperwork for campaigns during an already busy season in politics.”

Mason said contributions and spending are already included in mandatory pre- and post-election finance reports, though voters wouldn’t know about finances in the final weeks of a campaign until a required report 42 days after the ballots are cast.

The bill drew criticism from Andrew Bossie, executive director of Maine Citizens for Clean Elections, who told legislators “one of the most important things that our campaign finance laws achieve is full transparency and the availability of information to the public in a way that is useful as they exercise the right to participate in our elections.”

“Conservatives, moderates, and liberals; Democrats, Republicans, Greens, Libertarians, and unenrolled — everyone agrees on the value of transparency and timely disclosure. Disclosure long after Election Day does not satisfy this objective,” Bossie told the Committee on Veterans and Legal Affairs this week.

Mason said, though, that “the final days of a general election are taxing on candidates” and “things sometimes fall through the cracks,” including the required 24-hour report. If they’re not filed on time, he said, candidates will be fined, even if they’re unopposed and their failure doesn’t harm anyone.

Mason called the 24-hour reporting requirement “irrelevant today,” because there are no longer matching funds involved. In addition, he said, the process is both redundant and confusing for new candidates and committees.

Bossie said, however, that “accelerated contribution and expenditure reports have been required in Maine since at least 10 years before the Clean Election Act was passed in 1996.”

“There is a good reason why these reports are required in the final days of the election. This is when large amounts of money can sway a race. And it is also when voters are making up their minds,” he said.

“The prompt disclosure of expenditures and contributions in the final weeks of the campaign is valuable information for the public,” Bossie said.

Jonathan Wayne, the executive director of Maine Commission on Governmental Ethics and Election Practices, said it makes sense to drop the 24-hour reporting for expenditures to reduce the burden on campaign workers.

As for tossing out the 24-hour requirement to report contributions, Waye said officials need to weigh “whether the benefits to the press, to the public and to the political community of having the financial information before the election is worth the administrative burden of requiring candidates and committees to file the reports within one day during this critical two weeks before a general election.”

Wayne said that Maine adopted a 48-hour reporting requirement in 1976 and shortened it to 24 hours in 2004 at the suggestion of a commission dealing with a new matching funds program.

Originally, though, the reports were adopted “to increase disclosure’ by making relevant financial information available to the public in the final days of a campaign.

Fourteen states have similar daily reporting provisions and so does the Federal Election Commission that gathers campaign finance data for congressional and presidential races.

State Sen. Garrett Mason, R-Lisbon


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